The Man on the Radio is Talking

A woman calls in and she’s outraged: there is so much pain, especially of women, and well…

The man on the radio is talking

about his new book, which is about how we are getting better. Well, if not better
then, in some areas, not worse, maybe even becoming more civilized, if that means

doing fewer terrible things per capita, murdering and raping and maiming and otherwise
being less often truly awful, one-on-one at least, and then I guess evolving sufficiently

to develop statistics about such horrors. Really, it’s a fucking miracle how far we’ve come.
A woman calls in and she’s outraged: there is so much pain, especially of women, and well,

the cup of our suffering runneth over. Have you read—? Or maybe we’re just looking
at the cup, measuring it finally, replies the man who wrote the book, and I want

him to add and it is a terribly large cup, the suffering of women which we have always
known but only recently counted or even cared and even though there is less of it, slowly,  

since we started counting which was only recently, I want him to acknowledge the crack
opening in her voice, despite her lack of understanding or perhaps full understanding

of the data, either way the crack is widening under his passionate dispassion: see,
the numbers are real! That we are adding them up, some small slip toward better,

if so far from enough that it can feel like nothing. I am weak; even this friction
makes me itch. Each playing out the assigned pantomime, not to mention

the host blathering on over them, that condescending public-radio fuck
to whom I send money in the years when I have it, I should send it elsewhere,

somewhere where they actually count suffering in order to relieve it or maybe I should
just give the woman at the stoplight with the cardboard sign a handful of twenties

and be fucking done, yes I know that is a form of buying myself off. Jesus Christ on a cracker
get a grip both of you and a week or a month from now a most-likely-young most-likely-

white man will walk into another school or church or shopping center
and open fire. Is that one-on-one I don’t know but there is more of it than ever and less

of some other things, at least if you are lucky enough to be a person who looks like me
and in a good year can blow forty bucks on a donation. Can find a new station.

This poem was first published in Vol. 22.1 of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review

By Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet

Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet is the author of The Greenhouse (Bull City Press, 2014), selected by David Baker for the Frost Place Poetry Chapbook Prize. Tulips, Water, Ash was selected by Jean Valentine for the Morse Poetry Prize and published by University Press of New England. Her poems have appeared in Cream City Review, At Length, Blackbird, The Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, 32 Poems, Quarterly West, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded a Javits fellowship and a Phelan Award and received fellowships from the Millay Colony for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Lisa lives in Oakland, California with her husband and son. She works as a freelance writer and editor, teaches in the post-baccalaureate writing program at UC Berkeley Extension, and mentors and edits individual writers. In her spare time she cooks competently, gardens badly, and buys far more books than she will ever read.